Return to Portmanteau (idea)

A "portmanteau" is a blend of two (or more) distinct words to create a single new word that combines the meanings of the original words. More famous examples include [brunch], [smog], and [spork]. Portmanteau words should not be confused with [syllabic abbreviation|syllabic abbreviations] such as [sitcom], [Interpol], and [parsec].

This usage of the word "portmanteau" (which originally was a [French] word for a small suitcase), was coined by [Lewis Carroll] in [Through the Looking Glass], when [Humpty Dumpty] explains to [Alice] the meaning of the strange words in "[Jabberwocky]"...

"Well, '[slithy]' means '[lithe]' and '[slimy]'... You see it's like a [portmanteau]—there are two meanings packed up into one word... '[Mimsy]' is '[flimsy]' and '[miserable]' (there's another portmanteau for you)."

From this specific meaning, the word "portmanteau" has come to take on a general meaning of any idea or concept that carries multiple or mixed elements or meanings. For example, a movie reviewer might say that the film "was a portmanteau of tired cliches and hackneyed dialogue" and an anthopologist might point out that "The word 'culture' is a portmanteau that can mean many things to different people."

[Linguist|Linguists] have also taken up the word and created the technical [linguistics] term "[portmanteau morpheme]" to describe [morpheme|morphemes] that fuse two or more grammatical categories. Linguists reserve "portmanteau" for this usage only, ignoring Carroll's original intent, and refer to portmanteau words by the less interesting term "[blend|blends]."

But getting back to Carroll's definition of a portmanteau word, here are some notable portmanteaus (or "portmanteaux," if you're feeling particularly French today):

  • [administrivia], from administrative and trivia
  • [affluenza], from affluence and influenza
  • [animatronic], from animate and electronics
  • [bash], from bang and smash
  • [Bennifer], from Ben and Jennifer
  • [blaxploitation], from black and exploitation
  • [blurt], from blow and spurt
  • [Bollywood], from Bombay and Hollywood
  • [Brangelina], from Brad and Angelina
  • [brunch], from breakfast and lunch
  • [carjack], from car and hijack
  • [Chinglish], from Chinese and English
  • [chocoholic], from chocolate and alcoholic
  • [chortle], from chuckle and snort
  • [Chunnel], from channel and tunnel
  • [crunk], from crazy and drunk
  • [cyborg], from cybernetic and organism
  • [dumbfound], from dumb and confound
  • [ebonics], from ebony and phonics
  • [edutainment], from education and entertainment
  • [electrocution], from electricity and execution
  • [emoticon], from emotion and icon
  • [feminazi], from feminist and nazi
  • [fugly], from fucking and ugly
  • [gaydar], from gay and radar
  • [ginormous], from gigantic and enormous
  • [guesstimate], from guess and estimate
  • [infomercial], from information and commercial
  • [irregardless], from irrespective and regardless
  • [jackalope], from jackrabbit and antelope
  • [Japanimation], from Japan and animation
  • [mangina], from man and vagina
  • [mansplaining], from man and explaining
  • [manwich], from man and sandwich
  • [meld], from melt and weld
  • [metrosexual], from metropolitan and heterosexual
  • [mockumentary], from mock and documentary
  • [motel], from motor and hotel
  • [motorcade], from motor and cavalcade
  • [murse], from man and purse
  • [Nintendinitis], from Nintendo and tendinitis
  • [ridonkulous], from ridiculous and donkey
  • [rockabilly], from rock'n'roll and hill-billy
  • [skort], from skirt and shorts
  • [scuzz], from scum and fuzz
  • [shemale], from she, male, and female
  • [sexile], from sex and exile
  • [sexploitation], from sex and exploitation
  • [smog], from smoke and fog
  • [Spanglish], from Spanish and English
  • [splatter], from splash and spatter
  • [spork], from spoon and fork
  • [squiggle], from squirm and wiggle
  • [stagflation], from stagnation and inflation
  • [televangelist], from television and evangelist
  • [three-peat], from three and repeat
  • [tomacco], from tomato and tobacco
  • [transistor], from transfer and resistor
  • [turducken], from turkey, duck, and chicken
  • [twiddle], from twist and fiddle
  • [vajazzle], from vagina and bedazzle
  • [vidiot], from video and idiot
  • [wussy], from wimp and pussy